Tom Johnson has sparked a lively debate with his blog post What Does It Mean to Write?. In the post, he wrote “It seems that writing is a spectrum skill”, providing a chart to demonstrate this:
In the post’s discussion thread, a consensus seems to have been reached that you cannot define writing skills and types of documents as a spectrum on a single line.
An alternative approach to assessing writing skills
I suggest the “writing spectrum” could be described more effectively, by using a radar or polar chart.
By using two or more axes, we can then start to differentiate between the different skills needed for a number of writing roles. For example, we could create a diagram of skills needed to create (a) persuasive, “selling”, marketing-type documents (b) educational, “telling”, technical-type documents (c) creative writing and (d) general business communication:
If we assess people’s writing skills against the same criterion, it’s likely we can get an idea as to which profession would best match their abilities.
What should go on the axes?
The key question is, what should be measured? Some initial thoughts are:
- Structured and organised v. unstructured and disorganised
- Emotional v. unemotional
- Clear and understandable v. vague
- Succinct v. flowery
- Short document v. Long document
Another issue to bear in mind, is that the axes do not necessarily have to be positive/negative:
Potential measures could be: expression, adequacy of content, cohesion of information, compositional organisation and mechanical (grammatical) accuracy.
What do you think should go on axes?